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Europa League Showdown: Liverpool, Leverkusen lead charge as last-16 battles heat up

Posted : 06 March 2024

Liverpool and Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen emerge as strong contenders for Europa League success, with both teams expected to comfortably progress in their last-16 ties this week. Liverpool faces Sparta Prague, with the Reds in exceptional form and aiming for a quadruple in Jurgen Klopp's final season.


 However, potential distraction looms as their minds may be on the crucial Premier League clash with Manchester City. In contrast, Leverkusen, led by former Liverpool midfielder Alonso, is unbeaten in the Bundesliga and is set to face Qarabag in the knockout stage after a stellar group stage performance.


Brighton, currently in their first-ever European campaign, faces a challenging encounter against Roma, led by manager Daniele De Rossi, at the Stadio Olimpico. De Rossi and Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi share mutual respect, but De Zerbi is determined to secure victory against his friend.


West Ham, the reigning Europa Conference League champions, travels to Germany to face Freiburg, who recently held Bayern Munich to a draw. This marks the third meeting between the two teams in the competition, with West Ham victorious in both group stage encounters.


Rangers, having surprisingly topped their group, faces a tough challenge against Benfica in the last-16, with the first leg taking place in Lisbon. Philippe Clement, Rangers' manager, acknowledges the underdog status but remains optimistic about the team's chances.


Other intriguing matchups include Sporting hosting Atalanta, AC Milan facing Slavia Prague, and Marseille playing Villarreal, led by former Marseille coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who left his position after just three months in charge earlier this season.


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